- U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the 10 selectees for the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot (UAS) Integration Program, all of which will develop drone pilot programs to help the DOT craft regulation for drone use.
- According to the press release, the "White House initiative partners the FAA with local, state and tribal governments, which then partner with private sector participants to safely explore the further integration of drone operations."
- The 10 selectees are the Choctaw Nation of Durant, Oklahoma with private sector partners CNN and Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory; the city of San Diego, California; the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority of Herndon, Virginia with NASA and Virginia Tech; the Kansas Department of Transportation; the Lee County Mosquito Control District of Fort Myers, Florida; the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority of Memphis, Tennessee with FedEx and Agricenter International; the North Carolina Department of Transportation; the North Dakota Department of Transportation; the city of Reno, Nevada; and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Chao's green light for the 10 selectees to start drone pilot programs is the first step toward delivery drones in the supply chain.
Over the last year, most of the supply chain buzz regarding drones revolved around the use of drones inside warehouses to automate and accelerate picking and packing duties. Yet according to the Gartner Hype Cycle, drones were already on their way down into the Trough of Disillusionment in 2017.
But FedEx is betting on drones being the next big technology for package delivery, because the 3PL is partnering with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority to develop a pilot to do just that.
FedEx isn't the only one; the city of San Diego (using Uber's drones), the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (using Alphabet's drones) and the North Carolina DOT also listed package delivery as one of the aspects of their proposed drone pilots.
Now that local governments can start testing drones for package delivery, 3PLs inch closer to winning regulatory approval to use drones.
Notably, Amazon's proposal wasn't selected, Bloomberg reported, a major loss for the e-commerce giant whose Amazon Prime Air pioneered the idea of delivering packages via drone.
Other uses for drones planned in the winning pilot proposals include surveillance, agricultural and infrastructure inspection and maintenance, public safety, border protection, mapping and in the case of Reno, "time sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment," and in Alaska, pipeline inspection.